For all Samsung’s experiments with expandable screens that roll, scroll and fold, at the moment, the company has only two options available: the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. But documentation submitted to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) by the company last week indicates that that may not be the case for long.
First uncovered by SamMobile (opens in new tab), the WIPO application (opens in new tab) shows a device that can be extended by a rollable section of screen. Two different designs are showcased: one where the rollable segment emerges out of the side and another where it rolls out vertically from the top. In both cases, intriguingly, the panel is transparent, with the opaqueness seemingly adjustable by the user.
Why would you need the extended screen to be transparent? Well, the application specifically namechecks augmented reality (AR) as one use case. That makes sense: you could display virtual objects on top of the real world around you without having to use your camera as a pass through, as you do on something like Pokémon Go.
An opaque or semi-opaque screen could also be a way of remaining aware of the world around you, making it easier to text while walking.
Perhaps a better question is “why not?" If it’s optional, and you can remove the transparency completely via the settings, it’s hard to object to this as a feature. And the main point with any rollable, of course, is that it allows you to have both a small screen and large screen device in your pocket with the footprint of just one.
Whether the rollable design is preferable to a foldable panel is up for debate, though it is telling that while a number of folding devices have made it into consumers’ pockets, rolling ones are yet to escape from the concept phase. There was a chance that LG would be the first out the gate with a rollable device, but the company getting out of the phones game killed that possibility. Oppo also had a rollable Oppo X 2022 concept, but despite being showcased last year, it also hasn’t made it onto store shelves yet.
The history of tech is filled with examples of patents and plans that never get turned into a commercially available product. All the same, it’s interesting that this is something that Samsung is even considering — especially when Apple's foldable phone reportedly isn't happening until 2025.